Student Clubs Lack Participation

Stacey Zhang '22, Contributor

Browsing many interesting clubs while eating various pastries, I had an absolute blast at Harvest Fest. I, a curious new student, who signed up for a staggering twelve clubs, was excited to engage in extracurricular life on the Island. However, since then, I have only heard from three clubs regularly.
As I have learned to navigate Loomis Chaffee and meet new people, my interest in starting a club of my own has grown. But, before starting my own club, I had to do some research: what is keeping so many student clubs from being active? What can be done to promote student-organized clubs on campus?
Student clubs on campus provide opportunity for students to build and organize groups and events. Clubs are often founded on the basis of students’ initiative and their field of passion, which diversifies the student activities options on campus. They create spaces for students with similar interests to gather, bond, and learn new skills — whether flipping pancakes or singing.
However, some clubs suffer from a lack of interest from the student community, and poor attendance at meetings often discontinues clubs. Though many clubs have a large number of sign-ups, members cease to participate because of other commitments, school work, and a decline in excitement as school goes into full swing.
Other than the members, a more important factor for the inactiveness of clubs is its leadership. The leaders of some clubs start or continue their club at the beginning of the school year with excitement, without actually thinking through how and what to organize.
How do I keep my regular members interested? What content do I need to prepare for my club? How will I manage my own time at school? These are some of the questions that should be considered carefully before committing oneself to organizing a student group.
In addition to struggling with membership, the leading students of clubs also find less time available for clubs as the rather relaxed back-to-school period passes.
Mrs. Ginny DeConinck, who organizes the club fair and many club-related activities, explained that while Loomis Chaffee requires clubs to hold regular meetings with their members, they are rarely enforced, both because of the independence of student clubs and the diversity of clubs that requires flexibility in requirements. Such an issue as club inactivity is not unique to Loomis Chaffee, but it’s worthwhile to consider methods to encourage club activities in order to foster a more inclusive and engaged community.
For example, there are many existing resources for student clubs to which the leaders can reach out when planning events or facing challenges.
“Although there is no budget for student-organized clubs, the school will cover the expense for events,” Mrs. DeConinck said.
Students also have access to the faculty advisor for their club as well as the club coordinator, who communicates regularly with clubs and Student Activities.
A club workshop can also be organized for the leading students of clubs, to guide them through running a club and connecting to the school resources. The experience from other club leaders or faculty can help students to learn how to attract interests, forming relationships in a club, as well as making a larger impact on campus through events.

The Student Council is working on a proposal for new guidelines for clubs, which includes stricter club requirements and more commitment for the student leaders. This proposal will surely motivate the students to consider the commitment before creating a club and encourage students to organize meetings that generate genuine interests that wouldn’t have existed without this motivation.
However, I would suggest a level of flexibility despite more structured regulations for clubs, as the purposes of and resources necessary for different clubs vary. For instance, Mrs. DeConinck mentions the LC Fishing Club, which can only meet at specific times of the year for fishing, so there wouldn’t be any meaning to organize meetings during other times.
More-than-ever in this pandemic, we reflect on the forms of activities and interactions we have on campus that contribute to our unique experience at Loomis Chaffee. While independence is of utmost importance to a student club, the school should consider ways to support activities of these clubs to promote a more diverse, consistent, and interesting student experience.